City Budget Tops $150m

Mayor Dan Rizzo submitted his City Budget proposal to the Council in a Late Communication on Monday night – pointing out that it was his administration’s first attempt at totally revamping a budget process that has remained unchanged for decades.

The numbers in the budget show a 5.5 percent increase over last year, or $8.056 million. The total for the proposal is $154,060,170 – with $68.8 million of that going to the public schools.

The budget has increased by $16.05 million since Mayor Rizzo took office in 2012. It has increased $48.8 million since 2005.

“The budget has increased, largely in part to the typical budget busters like health insurance, pension obligation payments and union negotiations that resulted in salary increases,” wrote the mayor in a letter to the Council. “That, in addition to the newly required funding…to support positions previously funded by a grant.”

Those positions include 10 firefighters that were hired in 2011 on a federal grant, a grant that runs out in September. The City has agreed to keep those firefighters on the rolls at an extensive cost to the City.

More than a few councillors were upset with Monday’s submission, as it comes quite a bit later than normal. City Budget proposals are usually submitted to Council in early May, and then the Council conducts protracted hearings with every department over the course of late May and June.

The City Budget must be amended and passed by July 1st.

The lateness of this year’s proposal has put a cramp in the Council’s style, and several let Rizzo know as much.

Rizzo had little public comment on the Budget.

However, he did comment extensively in his letter. He detailed the new process that the City is instituting for its budgeting process – a process that looks to start using performance indicators in the popular Citi-Stat computer program.

“This is a work in progress,” he wrote. “My goal is to submit a budget in the future years that is in accordance with the guidelines of the Government Financial Officers Association of America.”

Rizzo wrote that last July the City began the transformation, partnering with the Collins Center for Government at UMass-Boston to help implement Citi-Stat.

“This allowed us to go forward with phase two of the process which was implemented in February of this year,” he wrote. “With their assistance, my staff and I have reviewed the budgeted results of the three major departments – Police, Fire and DPW – on a regular monthly basis. In doing so, we have started to see patterns and trends that will allow us to not only budget more appropriately, but also to operate more efficiently and effectively.”

This year’s City Budget contains new information such as mission statements, organizational charts of departments (with names) and goal setting priorities. It also contains actual expenditures from the previous year, rather than just the previous year’s budgeted amount.

Some of the budget priorities included:

•The City has agreed to retain 10 new firefighters with City funding. The new firefighters were hired in 2011 on a federal grant, and that grant lasted only two years and will run out in September. Rather than layoff those firefighters, they will be retained when the federal grant runs out.

•The City has provided the Police Department with four new officers, and will continue to request foot patrols in the business districts.

•Rizzo also said he would begin hiring officers prior to a planned retirement so that recruits can be in the Academy prior to the planned retirement of an officer.

•Police and Fire will no longer have officers completing administrative functions such as having an Information Systems Officers. That will now be completed by a civilian and the police and fire will share that employee. They will work out of the City Hall MIS office.

•Overtime in the Police Department will be reduced so as to provide more patrol officers on the streets.

•The Inspectional Services Department (ISD) has gained an employee through a transfer of an existing employee in the Weights and Measures Department.

•Entry-level positions have been created in the Parks and Recreation Department to help increase participation in more frequent and more rewarding recreational activities.

•The City will once again request an insurance premium holiday from the Public Employee Committee to help save money in the budget. That has been done the past two years already.

The Council accepted the mayor’s Budget submission and Council President Ira Novoselsky indicated they would begin budget hearings in the near future.

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